Tag Archives: New York City

Greenwich Village: Past and Present


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453-461-sixth-avenue-in-the-historic-districtOn a bitterly cold January morning in 1917, the painters John Sloan and Marcel Duchamps, along with friends, climbed to the top of Washington Square Arch to proclaim the secession of Greenwich Village from the United States. Thenceforth the neighborhood that stood as America’s repository of avant-garde art, literature and social enlightenment would be known as the Free and Independent Republic of Washington Square. The stunt defined the character of the Village, as it is popularly known to New Yorkers, for the ensuing half century. Continue reading

The Astor Place Riot/Shakespeare Riots of 1849


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astor place riotThis conflict occurred on May 10, 1849 at the Astor Opera House in Manhattan, New York City. When it was over an estimated lay 25 people lay dead and more than 120 injured when militiamen fired into an unruly crowd that had gathered in front of this theatre. Incredibly, the riot was triggered by the appearance at this venue of a famous British Shakespearean actor, William Charles Macready. It seems that he was as involved in a bitter rivalry with an American actor, Edwin Forrest, and each man was revered by a contingent of diehard fans. Continue reading

Being A NYC Yellow Cab Driver in the 1960s


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jules-stewart-cab-driverThe afternoon I crashed my Yellow Cab into a fire hydrant in West 17th Street I discovered that Gotham Hospital, where I happened to be born, had long ceased to exist. That was not the hospital blown up by The Joker in The Dark Knight. Mine was quietly shut and bulldozed in the 1960s. But this perhaps helps explain a Batman fixation that endures to this day, the 77th birthday of Gotham’s caped hero. Continue reading

The Flour Riot of 1837


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flour riot 1837Generally speaking, riots tend to happen on hot summer days but the Flour Riot erupted on a cold winter night in February of 1837. The attack on warehouses was sparked by a fear that food was being hoarded by wealthy merchants in lower Manhattan and people in the lower classes might face starvation. In reality, the rumors which inflamed the crowd were greatly exaggerated, lasted about a day and the vandalism which resulted was fairly minor, especially when compared to such later disturbances such as the Astor Place Riot or the colossal Draft Riots. Nonetheless, the Flour Riot was a significant affair because it underscored a growing divide in the city between New York’s prosperous merchant class and a quickly growing lower class of newly arrived Irish immigrants. The riot was also memorable because new method of communication, the “penny press,” had helped to inflame tensions. These cheap newspapers, widely available to the poor, had spread dangerous rumors and provoked a mob to attack a warehouse where flour was stored. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: More Ideas For Putting History To Work


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New-York-State-Map1A September post on this New York History Blog had some examples of “putting history to work” – showing the value of history for revealing historical precedents, insights or parallels which help shed light on current issues. Demonstrating that value in varied, imaginative ways is an important strategy for building support and securing resources for our history progams.

Here are a few more examples: Continue reading

Grave Robbing And The Doctors Riot of 1788


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new york hospitalThe origins of this civil disturbance began in early February of 1788 and broke out in mid April of that year. Actually the City’s doctors did not riot as the name implies. However, it had its origins in the illegal procurement of corpses of free blacks and slaves and poor whites by doctors and medical students at an unaccredited surgical training school in lower Manhattan led by Richard Bailey, a Connecticut-born doctor who had studied in London.

Apparently it was expensive and almost impossible for the school to provide corpses for its teaching purposes and the professors and students resorted to stealing them from nearby Trinity Church yard and other local cemeteries including the one for people of color then known the “Negro Burying Ground” Continue reading

The Slave Conspiracy Riot of 1741


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slave revolt 1741This conflict also known as “The New York Conspiracy Riot” was an amazingly intricate and brutal affair that in addition to its local implications had an international twist as well.

In the context of the longstanding European conflicts, English colonists in New York City felt anxious about the French presence in Canada to the north and Spanish colonies in the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River Valley to the South and West. They also felt threatened by a recent influx of Irish immigrants, whose Catholicism might incline them to spy for France and Spain. Continue reading

A History of Housing in New York City Revised


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a-history-of-housing-in-new-york-cityA standard in the field since its publication in 1992, A History of Housing in New York City traces New York’s housing development from 1850 to the present in text and profuse illustrations.

Richard Plunz explores the housing of all classes, with comparative discussion of the development of types ranging from the single-family house to the high-rise apartment tower. His analysis is placed within the context of the broader political and cultural development of New York City. Continue reading

The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club


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the-muckers-bookIn 1899, William Osborne Dapping was a Harvard-bound nineteen-year-old when he began writing down exploits from his rough childhood in the immigrant slums of New York City.

Now published for the first time, The Muckers: A Narrative of the Crapshooters Club (Syracuse University Press, 2016) recovers a long-lost fictionalized account of Dapping’s life in a gang of rowdy boys. Simultaneously a polished work of social reform literature and a rejoinder to the era’s alarming exposés of the “dangerous classes,” The Muckers stands as an important reform era primary document. Continue reading